A recent study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology by the American Psychological Association found a link between the sexist behavior of men and their potential mental health issues. These mental health problems include depression, stress, anxiety, poor body image, and substance abuse. The study involved more than 19,000 men over the course of 11 years.
Lead author, Joel Wong, an associate professor of counseling psychology at Indiana University Bloomington said that these attitudes could be bad for men’s mental health. The study looked at 11 gender norms that reflected societal expectations of traditional masculinity. These included norms such as the desire to win, the need for emotional control, risk-taking, violence, dominance, sexual promiscuity, self-reliance, the primacy of work, power over women, disdain for homosexuality, and the pursuit of status. The traits that were closely linked to mental health issues were the norms of sexual promiscuity, power over women, and self-reliance.
Dr. Wong stated that a classic example of self-reliance are the “men who have trouble asking for directions when they’re lost,” reported FOX News. The study went on to state that “men who exhibited those attitudes were also less likely to seek mental health treatment.” The two norms of power over women and sexual promiscuity were strongly associated with sexist attitudes and behaviors. The study wrote that “heterosexual men who adhere strongly to norms associated with sexism might struggle in their relationships with women, leading to poorer mental health.” Not all of the norms had negative aspects for men’s mental health. Those who valued primacy of work did not have significant associations with mental health related issues.
This study adds to the growing research that is investigating the ties between masculinity and mental health. These multiple links also include factors such as race and socioeconomic status that must be involved in the research. While the researchers did not go into detail about race, education, political affiliation, cultural influence, it might be worth studying further in light of the recent political presidential campaign.
Jared Yates Sexton in the New York Times wrote about toxic masculinity recently. He wrote that “though such masculinity might temporarily shelter men from the pressures of their daily lives, inevitably it robs them of their lives.” Wong wrote in his study that “people can change and norms do change over time.” One way, he suggested, to change the norms is for everyone, including men, to not remain silent and to voice “strong disapproval of behaviors that conform to sexist norms.”
By Cheryl Werber